What does OL mean on a multimeter

What Does OL Mean On A Multimeter?

7 Min Read

Found yourself asking, what does OL mean on a multimeter, exactly? If you’re baffled by the “OL” reading on your multimeter, don’t worry – you’re not alone.

The OL on a multimeter stands for Overload, Open Loop, or over-limit for voltage & current measurements. However, if the multimeter is not connected to anything, then OL is indicating an open circuit. This means the two probes need to be connected to something.

In this guide, we’ll simplify what OL means on a multimeter and why it appears during electrical measurements; providing crisp, easy-to-understand explanations for both newbies and seasoned techs alike.

Intrigued? Let’s decode the mystery of ‘OL’ and answer the question – what does OL mean on a multimeter. Let’s dive into this!

Understanding OL Readings on a Multimeter

When using a multimeter, OL readings can occur during voltage measurements, continuity testing, and resistance measurement.

Voltage measurement

Multimeters excel at voltage measurements. By connecting the multimeter’s terminals to an electrical component, you can accurately determine its voltage. An overload symbol (OL) on your device signifies that the voltage surpasses its measuring capability.

This could indicate an exceptionally high-capacity resistor or too much incoming current from a power source. You should switch your multimeter to a higher setting for accurate results in such situations.

Overloading may also point out circuit problems like an open loop, where no current flows between terminals. Overall, proper use of a multimeter in voltage measurement assists greatly with electronic troubleshooting and repair tasks.

Continuity testing

During continuity testing, the multimeter checks if a circuit is complete and can conduct electricity properly. If the multimeter displays OL during this test, it means that the circuit being tested is not detected or there is an open loop.

This could be due to a faulty component or a problem in the circuit itself. The OL reading indicates that there is no continuity and current cannot flow through the circuit as intended.

It’s important to address this issue by troubleshooting and fixing any faults in order for the circuit to function correctly.

Resistance measurement

When measuring resistance on a multimeter, the OL reading may indicate that the resistance being tested exceeds the limit of the multimeter. This means that the circuit’s resistance is too high for accurate measurement.

The OL reading could be caused by a faulty component or an issue in the circuit being tested. It’s important to check if the multimeter range needs to be adjusted to a higher setting in order to obtain an accurate measurement of resistance.

Possible Solutions for Multimeter OL Reading

To resolve a multimeter OL reading, adjust the measurement range, check connections and leads, or test a different component.

Adjusting measurement range

To address an OL reading on a multimeter, one possible solution is to adjust the measurement range. This means changing the settings on the multimeter to a higher range that can accurately measure the voltage or resistance being tested.

By doing this, it allows for more precise readings and helps avoid overloading the multimeter. Adjusting the measurement range is particularly important when testing components with high voltage or resistance levels that go beyond the default range of the multimeter.

Checking connections and leads

To troubleshoot an OL reading on a multimeter, it is important to start by checking the connections and leads. Make sure that all cables and wires are securely connected to the appropriate terminals of the multimeter and the component being tested.

Loose or faulty connections can result in inaccurate readings or an open circuit, causing the OL display. It is also essential to inspect the leads for any signs of damage or wear, such as frayed wires or broken connectors.

By ensuring proper connections and leads, you can eliminate potential causes of OL readings and ensure accurate measurements for your electrical testing needs.

Testing a different component

To troubleshoot the OL reading on a multimeter, try testing a different component. This can help determine if the issue is specific to one particular part of the circuit or if it’s a more widespread problem.

By swapping out components and testing them individually, you can narrow down the source of the overload or open loop condition. Keep in mind that when testing a different component, it’s important to ensure that all connections and leads are properly connected to avoid any false readings.

Explaining OL on a Multimeter

Simply put, OL on a multimeter stands for “open loop,” indicating a lack of continuity or inadequate current flow. Understanding this concept can help troubleshoot measurement issues and ensure accurate readings.

Open loop definition

Open loop, often represented as OL on a multimeter display, refers to an incomplete circuit or a lack of continuity in the electrical system being tested. When you see OL on your multimeter, it means that there is either an open circuit or the current cannot flow in a complete cycle.

This can happen when the voltage or resistance being measured exceeds the limit of the multimeter. It’s important to understand this definition because it helps you determine if there are any issues with your circuit that may require troubleshooting or repairs.

Lack of continuity

When OL is displayed during continuity testing on a multimeter, it means that there is a lack of continuity in the circuit being tested. This indicates that the circuit is not complete and that the current cannot flow in a complete cycle.

In other words, there is an interruption or break in the path through which electricity should flow. This could be due to a faulty component or a problem with the wiring or connections in the circuit.

The lack of continuity indicated by OL helps users identify if there are any issues with their electrical system that need to be addressed for proper functionality.

Inadequate current flow

Inadequate current flow is another reason why the OL reading may appear on a multimeter. When there is inadequate current flow, it means that the circuit being tested does not allow enough electrical current to pass through.

This can indicate a problem with the component or connection in the circuit, preventing the proper flow of electricity. It’s important to address this issue to ensure accurate measurements and identify any faults or malfunctions in the circuitry.

What does OL mean on a multimeter FAQs

What does “OL” mean on a multimeter?

“OL” stands for overload, and it typically appears on a multimeter when the measured value exceeds the maximum limit of the selected range.

Why does my multimeter show “OL” instead of a numerical measurement?

If your multimeter displays “OL” instead of a numerical measurement, it means that the value being measured is higher than the highest range setting on your meter. You may need to switch to a higher range or adjust your test setup accordingly.

Can I still use my multimeter if it shows “OL”?

Yes, you can still use your multimeter even if it shows “OL.” However, you will need to select a higher range or change your testing conditions to obtain an accurate measurement within the limits of your meter.

How do I interpret readings when my multimeter displays “OL”?

When your multimeter reads “OL,” it indicates that the resistance or voltage being measured is too high for the selected range. To obtain an accurate reading, you should switch to a higher range until you see a numerical value displayed on the meter.


OL on a multimeter stands for Overload or Open Loop. It indicates that the voltage or resistance being tested exceeds the limit of the multimeter, leading to an incomplete circuit and a lack of current flow.

Understanding OL readings is crucial for accurate electrical measurements and troubleshooting any potential issues in circuits or components.



Brian has spent over 30 years as a general contractor, and in that time seen and faced many challenges. He brings all his knowledge of portable generators, battery powered tools, and outdoor equipment to every post he writes through real life experience. Learn more about us.

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